On The Spectrum: Suffering As Empowerment

On the Spectrum
A column written by a Diversely Spiritual Autistic bisexual person

My partner acquired an infection during her hospitalization for pneumonia. She has not gotten any better in two weeks, and she cannot get an appointment with a doctor for a while. It is hard for me to watch such a good person suffer and not know what is wrong or when she will recover.  She is a wonderful woman who has suffered with one form of illness or another all her life.

In times like these, my first thought is to turn to the spiritual training I have learned. I strive to ask for as little as possible and constantly seek little ways to make things easier for her. I thank the Gods for pointing out these opportunities to serve her. I also have been constantly seeking the spiritual lesson I am supposed to learn.  Usually, I come up with selfless service, humility, or gratitude. All these are the prescription for fundamentalist Christian womanhood.

As you all know, I have autism. One of the features of autism is taking premises to their logical conclusion and applying that conclusion to daily life, no matter how horrifying that conclusion may be. I have read lots of articles stating something like “X felt humbled by (bad event) Y.” Since humility is good, I reasoned, then anything that humbles me must be good. Therefore, I should be thankful when I am belittled or get sick, since that is an opportunity to learn humility. Of course, that means I should always be grateful to whoever belittles me, since they are teaching me a lesson.

I finally figured out this made no sense at all, in addition to sounding rather psychotic. While the idea of using bad events to learn spiritual lessons is good, the lessons I was coming up with were no longer appropriate. If I have not learned selfless service and humility in fifteen years of call center work, I will not learn it at this point! Instead, I can use suffering to empower myself. I now have permission to do something about the problem instead of doing the above mental contortions to force myself to not feel. I also have permission to feel “bad” things, like anger and disappointment. I can now work through these emotions while still being grateful I can do things to make things easier for my partner in her suffering. With this, I am content.



Over 40, Bisexual, Autistic and part of the OTO, this contributor is the creator of “on the Spectrum” column

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